Zopa UK reshapes markets

Zopa UK has announced that it will remove the options to lend for 12, 24 or 48 months and concentrate on lending terms of 36 and 60 months. The changes apply only to money lend through Zopa markets not to Zopa listings.

Why are we making these changes?
– Since Zopa began more than three years ago, more than 95% of your loans have been taken for a period of 3 years or less.
– The popularity of larger loans repaid over 5 years is increasing, particularly since we introduced the new fixed borrower fee.
– Almost half of our new lenders who sign up to Zopa do not become active and our hypothesis is that it is just too time consuming for them to make offers to all of our markets.
– This allows us to simplify the marketplace considerably, while still allowing borrowers to repay their loan early with no penalty.
– Because listings still enables all loan terms from 1 to 5 years, Zopa will continue to offer a wide variety of borrowing and lending options.
– By structuring repayments over at least 36 months, we aim to encourage fewer borrowers to repay their loan early, maximising the interest you earn from each loan and reducing the period your money might spend in your holding account. This is because the loans that have been repaid early to date were mostly taken for 12 and 24 months in the first instance, so that borrowers had paid back a good proportion of their loan after just a few months.
– We’re not envisaging that there will be any significant financial impact for Zopa from these changes. At most, we would earn 0.5% of the outstanding capital for a little longer if we can dissuade early repayment, but since we would hope that lenders would relend any funds repaid early anyway, we’re unlikely to earn anything more significant. These changes are purely aimed at simplifying our offer.

Lender reactions in the forums (19 pages of comments) are mostly negative.
Some lenders speculate that this move is a necessary result of the new flat fee which was introduced earlier. Borrowers pay 94.25 GBP of the loan amount. For short term loans the impact of this fee on the APR is higher then for long term loans. 

Zopa to launch in Japan

P2P lending service Zopa – already present in the US, the UK and Italy announced it will launch in Japan.

Zopa Japan will be led by Chairman Takashi Yoneda and Managing Director Tatsuya Kuboi, both highly experienced and distinguished technology-based financial services professionals. Zopa Japan further strengthens Zopa´s position as the leader in its field. Zopa will continue its track record of firsts, as it will be the first social finance offering in Japan.

Takashi Yoneda, Zopa Japan´s Chairman, says: "We are very pleased to be part of the expanding Zopa worldwide operations, and we look forward to offering innovative financial solutions for the Japanese market. We will draw from the Zopa´s experience across the globe and introduce a social lending platform that is tailored for the Japanese culture and regulatory environment

Zopa tomorrow celebrates it's third birthday – it launched in March 2005 in the UK market. 

Other sources: Techcrunch UK

Keystone Study – Online Philantrophy Markets

A very interesting study that mainly concentrates on donations covers aspects of social lending too. Among the 24 online philantrophy markets examined are Kiva and MyC4. The study gives great advice what users (donors and lenders) expect from the market (the service) as functionality.

The study comments on Kiva:

Kiva’s entire business model was, from the start, faced with seemingly insurmountable logistical issues. From verifying the legitimacy of entrepreneurs’ claims straight through to delivering repayments to investors. In addition the challenges of distance, cost, and time were considerable. By partnering with carefully-selected microfinance institutions (MFI) already working in a particular area, however, Kiva has been able to overcome all of these hurdles. … And each MFI’s reputation as an accountable, socially responsible organisation must be unimpeachable with Kiva or another highly regarded organisation such as the US Peace Corps. Partnering with MFIs also overcomes the communication issues encountered working with small businesspeople in developing countries. Whereas very few small business owners in developing countries have Internet access or English language skills, all of the MFIs must have these in order to work with Kiva. This compromise enables individual stories from entrepreneurs, relayed by MFIs, to reach investors both before a loan is disbursed and after its effects are felt. Though loan repayments have been generally taken as a ‘proxy for success’ in the MFI industry, it is these personal stories, says Kiva’s Ben Elberger, which are
most important to most of its donors: ‘The lenders are more interested in the qualitative results than the quantitative…They are more interested in learning what happened to the entrepreneur than they are in getting their money back.’ Thus, the information provided by Kiva’s partners in each of their business’s journals is very rarely financially detailed; rather, it tells the story of how the loan will (or has) impacted on the day to day life of the business owner.

What does the future hold for Kiva? One of its primary goals has become strengthening their partner MFIs, helping them reach a more sustainable financial position so that fluctuations in funds received from Kiva will not impact their overall ability to lend. It is also developing an internal reporting system, but identifying common indicators for MFI and businesses has been extremely difficult, and it is unsure that such a framework is even possible. The biggest variable for the future, it says, is to what degree the public’s moral attention to sustainability and development will last.

MyC4 is given as example for the useful integration of Web 2.0 technologies to create an interactive market.

While a long read (over 50 pages without appendix) I believe it to be interesting for all p2p lending services especially the product development and marketing managers.

Download the study

Zopa demand figures

Lenders at Zopa do not (yet) select an individual borrower but rather select a market and a rate at which they want to lend their money. This is matched to borrower demand and if a match is found, money is lend out.

There is a 3rd party site tracking the development of the Zopa demand volume and charting it (daily, weekly, monthly, yearly). Recently the amount requested has gone down in most markets.



Smava with no lates but slow growth

It's been roughly 3 month since the launch of German p2p lending service Smava.de and I want to do a short résumé on the results so far. One huge achievement is that all borrowers made their first payment on time – no lates so far. While it certainly is to early for conclusions, since only one payment cycle (first repayment in the beginning of June) has taken place, the outlook for Smava concerning low default rates is very good. Looks like Smava will be much nearer to Zopa then to Prosper in this point.

Smava has a very restrictive approach for admitting borrowers and loan applications. Not only does Smava verify identity, credit score and income documentation – it goes one step further and calculates if the borrower's financial situation is well enough to allow repayment of the desired loan sum. Only after completions of all these checks is the borrower allowed to publish is loan listing.

As a result the majority of borrowers (about 70 to 80 percent of all applicants) are declined from using Smava. While this strict validation is good for quality it does slow the growth of Smava.

Since the launch Smava enjoyed large and positive press coverage (newspapers, magazines, TV, internet). Despite the good PR, Smava funded only about 50 loans with a loan volume of about 150000 Euro in the first 3 month. There are enough lenders – Smava lacks borrowers. The low volume contrasts sharply from the figures Boober.nl achieved in the Dutch market (see previous post)

The majority of loan listings that were published did get funded. Smava has two interesting functions that are unique and not used on other p2p lending services:

  • Borrowers can close the loan early provided it is more than 50% funded
    At Smava, listings usually run 14 days. However a borrower can decide to take the funded amount (provided it is at least 50% of the total amount) and close the listing early. Several borrowers have used this function. A borrower can open another listing (provided he has not reached his personal maximum repayment allowance) instantly for the remainder (he can even choose a different interest rate for subsequent listings)
  • Borrowers can increase the offered interest rates on their open listing. If this happens the change is applied for all bids on this listing. This is a widely used feature. Many borrowers start with (ridciously) low rates. After a few days they realise their loan will not fund and they increase their interest rate – often in several steps

Smava has yet to find a good concept for groups. While there are groups their purpose is yet to be defined. Consequently the majority of borrowers did not bother to join a group.

I will continue post updates on the development of Smava here on P2P-Banking.com.

P2P Lending Korea – Popfunding and Moneyauction

Internet usage in Korea is booming, most surfers enjoy broadband internet access. Furthermore the population is very open minded towards new technologies.

This year two P2P lending services launched.

Popfunding.com allows borrowers to get loans up to a maximum amount of approx. 2000 US$. Interest rates are auctioned. Maximum interest rate is 29 percent. The CEO is Hyun Uk Shin. According to the Korea Times the service does NOT charge fees from borrowers or lenders. Only bank fees have to be paid. If a borrower fails to make a payment popfunding.com will disclose his identity and contact information to the lender. 

Moneyauction.co.kr has a similar concept. 

Financial regulators are looking into the concepts to check if they are in compliance with korean laws.

(Sources: Ringblog, Korea Times)